My Belief System
A belief system is the combination of thoughts, opinions, or convictions on the most profound questions of life.What is a human being? What is the meaning and purpose of life? What is righteous behavior and what is sinful? Why is so much suffering caused and does it have any purpose? How can a greater and lasting happiness be found in life? What happens at death? What happens thereafter? Is there anything such as judgment? Will the righteous be rewarded? Such are the questions that weigh heavily upon any person seeking a deeper meaning of life, and possibly the way to salvation.
They are no easy self-evident answers to these questions.One cannot come to any clear-cut conclusions to these questions using thinking and analysis, although philosophers do try to do so.
The ultimate questions of life belong to the dimension of metaphysics, and have to be largely accepted as a matter of belief or faith. The articles of a believer’s religious faith are not conclusions derived by ratiocinative, discriminating mind. Mind has little to do with them, they are more related to the heart and the soul of a person.
For example, the existence of soul itself is not something one can infer from rational analysis or physical dissection. Yet the existence of soul is central to nearly every religious belief system on the earth. Logical thinking cannot make anything of such a belief. Similarly, the presence of God is something beyond the reach of human mind to comprehend. Yet, a belief in God is again the core of nearly every religious belief system. I myself follow a deeply Christian belief system that is founded upon the Glory of God and the mystery of His creation.
When we enter the domain of a religious system, we have to leave the mind behind and follow the voice of the heart. I believe that we should follow a belief system not because our parents followed it or the people around us follow it, but simply because there is a resonance between the elements of that particular religious thinking and oneself. Of course, usually one finds this special affinity to the religious tradition one is born into, and that is the case with me too.
I am a Protestant Christian and I find that the Protestants have a direct and intimate approach to religion. I am at home among Protestant Christians and particularly in my church and denomination, the Baptist Christians. Though I myself belong to the Baptist church, and have certain strong convictions concerning theological/metaphysical matters in accordance to my particular belief system, I try to regard other denominations and even faiths with an open mind. I believe that deep down, the religious impulse of men and women all over the world is the same.
Further, the courage or abstractness of thought needed to allow the heart to believe in completely unseen things is also more or less the same, although I acknowledge the fact that in a majority of cases, religious belief are just a matter of custom which do not have serious implications in a person’s life. But when religion is taken seriously, the essential nature of divergent belief systems can be the same though the contents differ, sometimes radically as between Eastern pantheistic religions and the strictly monotheistic Judeo-Christian religion.
I believe that God’s mystery is so great that it can perhaps equally validate widely differing religious belief systems. Let me offer a relevant example here from the world of physics: an electron can be a particle and also a wave at the same time. Common sense tells us that something cannot be a particle and a wave at the same time, surely that is impossible in the very nature of things — and yet in reality it can happen and in fact this is how things are. Similarly, God’s mystery can be so vast that it can accommodate two or more apparently conflicting metaphysical viewpoints.
Thus, almost paradoxically, although I am strong believer in the tenets of my own faith, I do not fanatically or arrogantly claim or even think that my denomination, my sect, my religion, is exclusively correct and all others wrong. I believe that ultimately, the mystery of God cannot be contained by any particular belief system. I also believe that more than the specific doctrines of a belief system, what is more important is the passionate intensity of the believer in God, whatever may be the name of the God. I believe in the efficacy of prayer and the total need to feel personally connected to the divinity of God.
To me, that divinity is represented in the image of Jesus Christ. As everyone knows, Baptists insist that one has to fully accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior as a personal conscious choice, not as just a matter of course. The event of Baptism marks this choice or decision. Although all Christians follow the ceremony of Baptism, and I respect that, I personally think (and not simply because I myself am a Baptist) that such a most sacred event in one’s life which confirms one’s personal relationship to God cannot be simply imposed on children who are not mature enough to make decisions for themselves.
Making Baptism into a matter of tradition and custom, instead of being a reflection of the most deeply heart-felt conviction is trivializing it. And I am proud that I am born into a particular system of faith that recognizes this and places so much importance on the act of being “born again. ” For me, being born again is not just a matter of belief of doctrine, but a tremendous inspiration at every step of my life. I also personally believe that being “born again” is not a one-time event associated with Baptism and does not end with it, in fact it only begins with it.
One has to be born again and again in spirit. One’s faith in God has to be renewed, rejuvenated and reaffirmed every day, only then the stream of faith can be kept flowing instead of becoming frozen. The belief in God, after all, is not simply a matter of belief — anyone can believe anything, and it does not make much difference; what makes the difference is the living energy and intensity that goes into prayer which forms a personal connection between the soul and God. There are numerous distinctive tenets in the Baptist faith that are the result of a well-grounded biblical, theological reasoning.
However, as I mentioned already, ultimately belief goes beyond reasoning, in its intensity and authenticity it even transcends the particular forms and structures it outwardly conforms to. Let me reiterate the fact that religion is a personal heart-to-heart affair between the soul and God. It is more like a love relationship than a particular type of world-view. The religious quest begins with questions such as what is the meaning of life, what happens after death and so on. A belief system provides or is supposed to provide answers for them. But how do I know that they are true, and absolutely true?
In this context, people usually say that that is the meaning of “belief” – one accepts a certain element of belief as a matter of faith rather than a demonstrable fact of knowledge. I agree to that entirely. But I would like to go a little further. To me, my particular belief system does not provide all the answers to all the questions, such as why innocent children have often to suffer so cruelly, or why millions of people are dying in Africa from hunger and disease. In a world governed by a compassionate and infinitely wise God, how can such and so many other atrocious things happen constantly and everywhere?
There are no easy answers. My belief-system does not provide satisfactory answers to these questions, but my personal faith in the wisdom and power of God allays my questioning mind. There are no clear and distinct answers, but the questions themselves become amorphous and disappear in the burning intensity of one’s faith. To have faith in God means to have faith that whatever is happening, is happening for certain reason, though it may not be easy for us to comprehend God’s ways. To a praying heart, ultimately, the one answer it needs is found in the joy and upliftment to be found in the act of prayer.